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16 things to do in Ottawa for free this summer

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CTVNewsOttawa.ca looks things you can do for free in Ottawa this summer.

Tim Hortons Dragon Boat Festival

The Tim Hortons Dragon Boat Festival at Mooney's Bay features free all-ages concerts.

Headliners include Rare Americans, the Blue Stones, NOBRO, the Hallions, Luella and more.

The festival runs June 21 to 23 at Mooney's Bay.

For more information, visit https://dragonboat.net/.

RCMP Canadian Sunset Ceremonies

The RCMP Musical Ride will perform June 27 to 30 at the RCMP Stables on Sandridge Road.

The Canadian Sunset Ceremonies highlight the Musical Ride and is held to thank the community for their support.

Admission is free.

For more information, click here

A troop of 24 equines and their RCMP officer partners practice the sunset ceremony performance ahead of the long weekend. May 17, 2023. (Tyler Fleming/CTV News Ottawa).

Canada Day

Celebrate Canada's 157th birthday on July 1 at a number of free events across Ottawa.

The national Canada Day celebration will be held at LeBreton Flats, with the daytime ceremony at 12 p.m. and the evening show from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. There will be fireworks at LeBreton Flats Park from 10 p.m. to 10:15 p.m.

Musical acts for the evening show include Chromeo, Corneille, FouKi, Kanen, Kiesza, Maestro Fresh Wes, Metric, Neon Dreams, Qattuu, Sara Dufour and Willows.

There will also be Canada Day festivities on Parliament Hill and in Old Hull. For more information, click here.

Canada Day celebrations will also be held in Barrhaven, Kanata, Stittsville, Greely, Gloucester and other locations across Ottawa.

People gather on Parliament Hill for Canada Day entertainment, Tuesday, July, 1, 2014. (Mike Cormier / MyNews)

Play Free with the City of Ottawa

The City of Ottawa is hosting several free drop-in activities for children and youth.

Children and youth under the age of 17 and accompanying adults can enjoy free drop-in swimming on Saturdays.

Free sports activities are available at several recreation centres across Ottawa for youth through the summer.

For a list of activities and centres, click here

City of Ottawa beach.

Workout Pass

Teens between the ages of 13 and 17 can access City of Ottawa weight and cardio-rooms for free from Tuesday, July 2 to Saturday, Aug. 31.

For more information on the Tony Graham youth workout pass, click here.

Beach season

You can spend a day at the beach, wading pool or splash pad in Ottawa.

The city of Ottawa's beaches at Britannia Beach, Mooney's Bay and Petrie Island will be open daily, with lifeguards on duty from 12 p.m. to 7 p.m.

Ottawa's wading pools will be open for the summer, with no cost to swim.

Splash pads are also free to use across the city of Ottawa.

The NCC River House is also open for swimming daily.

The NCC River House swimming area. June 3, 2024. (Dave Charbonneau/CTV News Ottawa)

NCC Weekend Bikedays

The National Capital Commission opens up the parkways along the Ottawa River and Rideau Canal for active transportation use this summer.

The NCC's Weekend Bikedays run from May 11 to October 14 on Saturdays, Sundays, and holiday Mondays.

The westbound lanes of the Kichi Zībī Mīkan will be closed to vehicles between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. on weekends.

The Sir George-Étienne Cartier Parkway will be closed to vehicles between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. The closure is from the Aviation Parkway to St. Joseph Boulevard.

Queen Elizabeth Driveway will be open for cyclists, runners and pedestrians from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. between Fifth Avenue and Somerset Street on weekends. In July and August, Queen Elizabeth Driveway will be closed to vehicles seven days a week, 24 hours a day between Somerset Street and Pretoria Avenue.

National Arts Centre

The National Arts Centre in downtown Ottawa offers several free activities through the summer. For more information, visit the NAC's website.

Some of the performances include:

  • June 27, July 6 and July 27 – Miguel De Armas performs for Music on the Canal
  • June 29, July 4 – The Lionyls perform for Music on the Canal
  • July 1 – Canada Day Concert with the NAC Orchestra
  • July 2-3 – Beuxmont
  • Thursdays in June, July and August – SoulRhythms
  • July 8-9 – The Moss Trio
  • July 9-10 – Quique Escamilla
  • July 11, 13 – NAC Brass Ensemble performs on the Rideau Canal
  • July 15-16 – The Oxbow Piano Trio
  • July 16-17 – Okavango African Orchestra
  • July 20 – LeFloFranco performs for Music on the Canal
  • Aug. 6-7 – Moneka Arabic Jazz
  • Aug. 10 – Theatre Games with Chancz Perry

Museums

Museums in the national capital region offer free admission during the following periods over the summer: 

Ottawa Free Tours

Let the experts take you on a free walking tour of downtown Ottawa this summer.

Guides with Ottawa Free Tours will guide you around the area to share the tales of the city.

The Capital City Tour visits the National War Memorial, Sparks Street, Parliament Hill and the ByWard Market.

For more information, visit https://www.ottawafreetour.com/capital-city-tour.

Parliament of Canada Tours

Enjoy a free, guided tour of the Senate at the Senate of Canada Building, the House of Commons in the newly restored West Block and the East Block this summer.

For tickets and tour times, visit https://rts.parl.ca/

Rideau Hall

Take a tour of the historic mansion and expansive landscaped grounds at the official residence and workplace of the governor general.

Rideau Hall offers guided tours of the residence, while you can also explore the grounds. Guided tours are available daily.

You can also enjoy Storytime at Rideau Hall on Thursdays and Fridays from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m., starting July 4.

For more information, visit https://www.gg.ca/en/visit-us/rideau-hall/what-see-and-do.

Parliament: The Immersive Experience

Explore the main Parliament Building, also called Centre Block, in this new innovative experience.

Parliament: The Immersive Experience at 211 Sparks Street includes an exhibition and a 360-degree multimedia show that takes you on a tour through Centre Block, which has been closed since 2019.

The self-guided tour is 45 minutes.

Tickets are available at no cost at visit parl.ca.

Capital Pop-Up Cinema

Enjoy classic movies under the stars this summer.

Capital Pop-Up Cinema will host free movies at several locations across Ottawa.

  • June 21: The Rocky Horror Picture Show at Ottawa Jail Hostel
  • July 5: Dr. Strangelove at Beechwood Cemetery
  • July 12: The Truman Show at Churchill Seniors Recreation Centre
  • July 26: Home Alone on Sparks Street
  • July 27: Scott Pilgrim vs. The World at Zibi on Albert Island
  • Aug. 2: The Wedding Singer at Beechwood Cemetery
  • Aug. 16: Flight of the Navigator at Churchill Seniors Recreation Centre
  • Aug. 23: Mamma Mia! on Sparks Street
  • Aug. 31: Space Jam at Jules Morin Park

Salsa at Ottawa City Hall

Enjoy salsa dancing at Ottawa City Hall on Wednesdays in July and August.

Drop by City Hall from 6:30 p.m. to 10 p.m., starting July 10.

Ottawa International Busker Festival

Street performers take centre stage during the Ottawa International Busker Festival on Sparks Street in August.

Admission is free, but tips are encouraged.

The Ottawa International Busker Festival is Aug. 2 to 5.

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